Responses to Elephant in Living Room
FMSF News Alert - February 13, 2014
Some responses to the "Elephant in the Living Room" letters that were sent in December 2013
I too am living with an "elephant" and am as much at loss as to how to deal with it now as I ever was. My son has now been back for 13 years after having been away for six. He had had a nervous breakdown at 37, and after initial therapy here in the UK he went to a treatment center in Arizona called The Meadows, which specialized in helping "Survivors"...survivors of family life! He refused to speak to his Father or me, and he never said how we had supposedly abused him.
I had tremendous help from FMSF and on their advice, kept gently contacting him, cards on his birthday etc. To begin with he either ignored or sent them back, but eventually he started emailing me, and after a few years of this, we met. He was in a dreadful state, much worse than before he went into treatment, physically, emotionally and financially.
Since his return to normal life, he has made amazing progress; he is a writer and has been commissioned every year since he started. He has a house and loving family. We are on good terms: I see him regularly, and we spent Christmas together at his house. I am tremendously happy he is back in my life; he’s my only son and I could not imagine a life without him. I know many parents are still suffering with alienation, so I consider myself very fortunate.
But some days I have niggling doubts. How can this be real without honesty and talking about it? Then I rationalize and think his actions are his apology. The answer is -- I don’t know. I really don’t know. I do know I should count my blessings and be grateful he is back at all.
My second husband is not so forgiving, but it is not his son.
A Mom who wishes the elephant would go away.
I am still trying to figure out what causes the prolonged ambivalence that seems to invade the progress that is often made. I wonder if that is the way the false memories come in the first place...sort of are there and then are doubted and then are there, etc. and the process continues until the "victim" decides one way or the other.
Anyway, thank you again for the newsletter. It is a great way to stay in touch and to continue the focus on the issue.
A concerned professional
How very sad. Our son and his wife have never relented. They still believe my husband and I molested our grandsons when they were little, even though the oldest boy told them emphatically "They didn't do anything."
A Mom who would be happy to have an elephant
For us, living with an elephant would not work. I think it is unhealthy to avoid facing the reality of a mistake. The truth sets you free, lies do not. I know the victims are being controlled, but I believe that they had to cooperate to some degree. If my daughter could not bring herself to say that she realized she was mistaken, then we could not trust her. She might pull a similar stunt again.
I believe that true healing will come when the victim admits that he or she allowed the brainwashing to take place -- for whatever reason. No big fanfare, but an admittance that they were wrong and wronged.
That is my 2 cents worth. Of course, each case is different because all the elements are different. In our family, we have another child, a minor, to think about. We could not let ourselves be victimized and threatened with prison. The threat is too great.
A Mom who would not accept an elephant
Our advice may seem perhaps somewhat unsatisfying. We human beings yearn for justice, but are more often than not obliged to simply accept things as they are and be grateful for smaller mercies.
It is our view that families should abandon all efforts to have your daughter "‘fess up" and abjectly seek your forgiveness. What you must do is rejoice, and if you believe in God, thank Him for having freed her from the chains of her false memories. How would we ever be able to know what calumny and malfeasance were inflicted upon your vulnerable daughter by her evil "therapist?" She may simply have nothing left in the tank after the hell she has undergone.
We believe that God will deal with the "therapist" in due course; it is out of your hands. Your daughter can now lovingly embrace her father, he who was (and probably still is) believed by the misguided, politically oriented and very sick "recovery" movement to have perpetuated unspeakable acts against her person.
Your daughter may never be able to apologize, beset by embarrassment and humiliation; so what? She has made an incredibly difficult choice, and has chosen the warmth of a loving family over the sinful brainwashing inflicted upon her by unprincipled and politically motivated fanatics.
Love her every moment of every day, and don’t ask questions.
Parents who learned to love the elephant
Please give this parent my phone number: 214.554.8809. And, refer her to my story "Misplaced Trust." I would be happy to help this family. Eventually, I would like to talk to the daughter. They must understand she is living with a lot of guilt. As she begins to trust herself, she will begin to trust others and will talk about her ordeal. Just thank God she came to her senses and made her way home. Many people have no family to come back to. I’ll be glad to help.
(You can read Misplaced Trust at www.skipsimpson.com)
I too have an elephant in the room. In fact I had two of them, and I know the situation of which people still suffer and in spite of it all, still love their children.
In February of this year, my oldest daughter, who I was sure hated me, passed away.
My youngest daughter is a wonderful woman, but she fell into a deep depression in the 90s, in the first year of her marriage after she took in and raised two children from a distant relative of her husband. One of the children was autistic. It was then that she attacked me with false accusations.
We visited a family counselor who ordered us to not see each other under any circumstances for seven years. I wrote letters, and letters, without every getting an answer from either daughter. I was devastated. Then, someone mentioned the FMS foundation, but I was very reluctant to make contact in fear that FMSF might be some kind of a sect. Finally, when I went to check it out, I was surprised to learn that I actually was NOT the only person suffering from this terrible situation. I attended the meetings regularly.
I am in awe of what the FMSF has done to stop all this craziness, but it seems this disease is incurable, spreading over generations. On Christmas day, I had another major battle with my daughter, after an otherwise wonderful day. Due to this I cancelled my 85th birthday party with 16 members of family and friends.
I hope 2014, and the dwindling years I have left are more peaceful. Thanks for doing such a great job.
A grieving mother
It is difficult for those who stood by and supported the parents. We explained to siblings that the accuser was a victim of the therapist, just as the accused were victims.
It is too embarrassing for the accuser to apologize--for her gullibility, ignorance, and fantasy under hypnosis, pharmaceuticals, and brainwashing. I believe there is residual anger in most of us, but we try to accept the returner anyway. Forgiveness is better than anger, though we surely understand how an angry brother feels.
The only explanation given to us by returner was, "I had every bad thing happen to me during those years." We know that she had terrible accusations from her husband’s ex-wife, her husband’s children were told lies, money went out to the former family of her husband, appointments were not kept, her job as a night nurse job caused hallucinations, and, believe it or not, her church group was hunting Satan.
We had 15 years of love, hugs and loving letters from our returner. Suddenly, however, after those years, I received a terrible letter from her and found she had also posted awful things on Facebook. I know that she has recently begun having problems with her husband, her church, and finances. But to make the horrible accusations again! I can only think these accusations are hallucinations from the medications she takes for her brain tumor cancer. Her brain tumor, supposedly removed, affected the part of her brain that controls paranoia and fear functions. She exhausted all the false accusations against her husband and her church, so now it is I again. It still hurts. How does one refute--all over again--some things that never happened? I am glad I vowed to always support FMSF the rest of my life.
This is a good thing for the Foundation to undertake. Wounds go deep and there are few to help with therapy other than at the professional level.
A thankful father
A suggestion for closure involving an accusation of child sexual abuse based on a so-called recovered memory:
First find a moderator (not a family member) who will stay absolutely neutral who will allow everyone to speak without being interrupted.
Next, get the elephant and other relatives in the living room and let each side briefly state their case. Bring everything into the open without rancor and anger.
One speaker may point out that a long time ago those in the room became either a primary victim (the accuser) or a secondary victim (the accused and other relatives) of a suggestive kind of therapy that is no longer practiced by the vast majority counselors, psychotherapists, psychologists and psychiatrists.
This dated therapy assumed:
(1) That emotional problems later in life are the result of child abuse,
Let the primary victim react to this statement.
Next let each secondary victim state his or her case or express grief over the accusation and what it implies.
Some may want the accuser to make an apology of sorts. This may be difficult because the allegedly recovered memories are still firmly believed in by the accuser.
Some may want to re-establish good family relations without a retraction by the accuser. Others may find that difficult.
All should perhaps agree that whatever the outcome, "love is better than hate."
A father wishing you the best for 2014
Our 44-year-old daughter wrote us a long letter in the summer of 2010 in which she accused my wife and me of extreme emotional and physical abuse against her and her two siblings. She said that the three of them had been beaten daily until they bled, that my wife and I were violent abusers who think of ourselves as victims. She did not accuse us of sexual abuse, but she did offer a long list of grievances justifying her decision to cut us off completely. She announced that we both needed extensive psychoanalysis over a period of five to ten years before she would even consider reestablishing a relationship with us. She even specified the type of psychoanalysis we required - analysis focusing on object relations. I might note that my wife is 72 and I am 73.
She said that we could have no contact with her, her husband, or our six-year-old grandson. She would not read any letters or emails from us, talk to us on the phone, or have any communication with us. We would probably not meet again in this life, although perhaps we would be reunited in heaven.
Her letter was full of phrases from books like "The Courage to Heal," and she admitted to having been in extensive psychoanalysis three times a week for years, so we believe that she is suffering from false memory syndrome resulting from suggestions proffered by her therapist. But we cannot know for sure.
Her charges were simply false or so trivial that they could not possibly be a legitimate reason for breaking all ties with us. My wife and I were good parents. We weren’t perfect, but we adored our daughter. As a child she was very sensitive and sickly. We cared for her and protected her. I do not recall ever spanking her, much less beating her until she bled.
After receiving her letter, we asked people who were in and out of our house when our children were small if they ever saw any evidence of abuse. One person who had dated our daughter for several years when they were in high school said that he thought we were very cool parents. He added that he had never seen any suggestion of abuse, that our daughter had always expressed both love and gratitude that we were her parents.
Our older daughter cut us off eight years ago, refusing to give any reason. We have had no contact with her two children for eight years. We were not invited to our grandson’s wedding. She was defiant and oppositional as a child and is still that way as an adult. We believe that she simply didn’t want to have us in her life because we didn’t toe the line and do whatever she wanted. Her children are now in their 20s and have no contact with us, probably because she has forbidden them to see us.
Our daughters’ decisions to cut us out of their lives have caused us a great deal of pain. Our family has been fractured. Our son, the youngest of our three children, tells us that we were great parents. He reports having an ideal childhood and says that he raises his daughter the way we raised him. He insists that we did not abuse him or his sisters. He has no idea why his sisters have cut us off. But as a person who dislikes conflict, he does not want to talk about any of this - nor does he apparently want to confront his sisters...
My wife and I have thought a great deal about how we would handle a situation in which one or both of our daughters elected to come back into our lives. Quite simply, we would not welcome them back with open arms. The reasons for their alienation would have to be discussed. I disagree with psychologist Joshua Coleman, who argues that parents of estranged adult children should do anything to restore a fractured relationship. I believe that people should be held accountable for their actions. Our adult daughters have caused us great pain. We have forgiven them, and we wish them well. We hope they have good lives. But we would not want to live with that huge elephant in the room if they suddenly appeared on our doorstep as if nothing had happened. Nor would we want to put ourselves in a position where they might repeat the behavior of cutting us out of their lives. We are old and have health problems and want peace.
Anyone going through this nightmare can profit greatly from reading several books. The ones I found especially helpful were Mark Pendergrast’s "Victims of Memory" (especially the chapter on retractors) and Paul McHugh’s "Try to Remember." Elizabeth Loftus’ "The Myth of Repressed Memory" is also an excellent source of insight into this phenomenon that seems to be far more prevalent than many may think. The New York Times published an article entitled "When the Ties that Bind Unravel" about the work of Joshua Coleman (May 3, 2010), which has generated over 2,000 reader comments. Finally Frederick Crews’ "The Memory Wars" is a more technical, theoretical assessment of the Freudian background of repressed memory.
The way any specific family handles the estrangement of an adult child is no doubt unique to that family. I do not believe that our way of handling this situation is universally applicable.
A dad who hopes his comments are helpful
As far as I am concerned, you still have not hit the mark. You relate the extreme horror stories and neglect the garden-variety of false memory of cases. I have been a member of our organization for several years and have not really received any help. All of the attention goes to these really bizarre cases.
A dad looking for help